How to Store Potatoes Properly
Type of Potatoes
The first thing to consider when you are looking to keep potatoes fresh for longer is what type of potato you are storing. Some potatoes store better than others; Russets, Yellow Fins, Red Pontiacs and Ykon Golds are a few varieties that are known to keep fresh for longer.
If you don’t know what type of potato you have or whether it’s good for storage there are a few things that will help you to gauge how fresh they are likely to keep:
- Skin thickness – those with thicker skins store better than those with thin skins
- Harvest time – potatoes that take more than 90 days to mature and are therefore harvested later in the season usually store well
You can impact skin thickness through curing your potatoes before storing them, this helps them toughen up and keeps your potatoes fresh for longer. If you’re buying potatoes they are likely to have already been cured, but it’s worth asking if you are unsure.
Separate Your Potatoes
Only perfect potatoes are suitable for storing over the long-term, so you need to seperate them all and inspect for damage, this may be mold, soft spots, pest damage, broken skins, etc. Potatoes with any of these will not keep fresh for long, so use these ones first.
Once you’ve selected the best of your spuds, make sure you do not wash them before storing. Exposing potatoes to moisture will encourage them to rot and turn green, and they will not stay fresh for long in storage.
Where to Store Potatoes
The best thing to store potatoes in is a hessian sack (burlap bag), and they are fairly cheap to buy and can be found at most garden centers. The reason a sack is an ideal storage container is because potatoes release moisture and the hessian material, which has lots of little holes, allows them to breathe whilst not exposing them to light, keeping your potatoes fresh.
Other good alternatives that will keep your potatoes fresh for longer include paper sacks, pillowcases or cardboard boxes with shredded paper and holes pierced into them.
Whatever you choose to store your potatoes in, do not use plastic bags, especially not clear or white ones. Plastic bags such as these don’t let the moisture escape, but do let light in, so potatoes will rot quickly.
The Perfect Environment
Once you have your container sorted, there are several ways to further extend the lifetime of your spud!
Ideal temperatures for keeping potatoes fresh are between 5-10 degrees C or 45-55 degrees F. Temperatures that are either too warm or too cold will reduce storage life. A potato storage study published in Food, Science and Technology found that keeping potatoes at the correct temperature more than quadrupled their shelf life.
You may question whether storing potatoes in the fridge is a good idea. Again, there have been extensive studies completed at the University of Idaho and the Potato Research Centre on this topic. The results conclude that storing potatoes in the fridge can be done in certain circumstances, such as:
- The fridge is used solely for potatoes so the temperature can be turned up for the perfect storage.
- The potatoes are already cooked.
- If your home is too warm or cold and the fridge is close to the required temperature than the external environment – they will still spoil, but at a lesser rate.
In any other circumstances, you should not store potatoes in the fridge because low temperatures cause cold induced sweetening as the starch turns to reducing sugar, and these sugars can cause carcinogenic substances.
Popping your potatoes in the fridge when they have been cooked is perfectly acceptable and will help the potatoes last for a few extra days. You can also freeze cooked potatoes, but not raw potatoes.
Also, keep potatoes away from light. If the potatoes for storage are exposed to too much fluorescent light they will turn green. This is because in the light they produce chlorophyll, which means they will become inedible and only good for the compost heap.
The Impact of Other Produce in Storage
There’s a myth out there that says you should store your onions and potatoes together to help keep potatoes fresh, but listen to this at your peril. If you want to keep your potatoes fresh, keep them away from onions and other produce, such as fruit. These produce and emit ethylene gas, which speed up ripening, which basically means potatoes will rot much faster.
And don’t just take our word for it, research has found short exposure of ethylene causes increased sprouting. Keep your potatoes away from all other fruit and veg to be on the safe side.
Check Your Potatoes Regularly
When in storage make sure to check your potatoes regularly. One bad potato can have a damaging effect on all your potatoes, so it’s good to have a rummage every now again through those being stored. Make sure there isn’t any that are starting to rot. If you find one or two that are, out them and you’ll keep the remainder of your potatoes fresh for longer.
Follow all the advice above and your potatoes should last four to six months, that’ll keep you going!